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Totally occu-pied

  • PHOTO COURTESY NEW YORK TIMES

The allure of a homemade fruit pie is real: Just imagine a bubbling double-crusted blueberry number cooling by a breezy window. To turn out stellar pies showcasing summer’s ripest fruit — without heating up the kitchen — you want the ease of crumb crusts and chilled fillings.

Just about anything you can crush into crumbs, you can use for a no-roll crust. Graham crackers are an obvious choice, but other crumbly cookies can build a tender, cookie-like foundation strong enough to hold rich, creamy fillings.

There are a few keys to producing an ideal crust. Make sure crumbs are blitzed into a uniform sandy powder before adding sugar and butter. A flat-bottomed measuring cup works best for pressing the crumbs into an even layer. Your hands are fine tools, but a cup helps create a more structurally sound shell.

Start by compacting the sides first — it’s easier to knock edge crumbs back into the bottom than it is to work excess bits up the side of a buttery dish. Use your free hand to prevent the crumbs from spilling over the edge. Then, press the remaining crumbs firmly across the bottom of the plate, paying special attention to the corners where gaps can go unnoticed.

When it’s time to bake, place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet so it’s easy to get in and out of the oven.

Sometimes, a no-roll crust will puff while baking, but that’s no big deal: Check it halfway through baking and, while the crust is still warm, use the same measuring cup or glass to gently press it back into place, then bake until set.

Once cool, fill as you like. Top any of the options with piles of sweet summer berries, and you’ve turned a humble cream pie into a real showstopper.

This dessert is a win for pie lovers everywhere. They are exactly what sunny days call for: a light lift for a much sweeter season.

Blackberry frozen yogurt pie with cracker crust

Ingredients for the crust:

• 6 ounces Ritz crackers or saltines (about 50 crackers)
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Ingredients for the filling:

• 6 ounces fresh or frozen blackberries
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
• 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt

Directions:

Make the crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Combine crackers, sugar and salt in a food processor and process until finely ground. If you don’t have a food processor, place in a resealable plastic bag and bang with a rolling pin or meat mallet until crushed. Add butter and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand.

Transfer cracker mixture to a standard 9-inch pie plate. Using the bottom of a flat-bottomed measuring cup, press the mixture up the sides and into the bottom of the pie plate. Bake on the middle rack until dry and golden brown, 20-25 minutes. (If the crust slumps or puffs while it bakes, gently press it back into place while still warm with the measuring cup and proceed.) Let cool completely.

Make the filling: Combine blackberries, sugar and lemon juice in a food processor and process until evenly crushed. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream and condensed milk until stiff peaks form. Give yogurt a few stirs to smooth it out, then gently fold into whipped cream mixture; transfer to the cooled crust. Spoon blackberry mixture over top and, using a spoon, carefully swirl into the cream.

Freeze until firm, at least four hours and up to two days. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving; this will make it easier to slice. Serves 8-10.

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